The AIAN (Archive of the Anonymous Narrated Image) was born from the conviction that photographic practise goes far beyond what a camera does, or what is done with a camera. Although etymologically the term photography defines it as "writing with light", once the picture has been taken, the picture has a long life ahead of itself, where photographic practise â and not photography â leaves a rich trace of operations which range from the decision to develop a roll or not to do so, all the way up to the narrative which uses the picture as a medium, passing through anything which can be done to a picture or with a picture: crop, glue, keep, organise in a shoebox or an album, wipe out, scratch, enlarge, show, comment, destroy, etc., many of these verbs would become part of this photographic practise.
The first section of the project focuses on the images of the Spanish Civil War, but not so much in war images, as in the family picture, and in the way it was present â and remains present â as a vestige of an era when photographers were exclusively camera professionals, and the picture an individual could own were normally very few. Few, or none. This possession of a few pictures is a fundamental point for AIAN: in the wake of the current massive propagation of the family picture through the home camera, we can still find members of the last generation that experienced the photograph as a specific phenomenon, and which, mainly, has remained removed from this massive propagation, preferring the physical touch of photographic paper as a precious object. Studying this second photographic practise â which consists in the private, individual management of the image â is a rich and fascinating endeavor, as it is to study why this kind picture, and why is the other kind disappearing. But, above all, it is a transversal approach to a conflict which avoids an erosion of its historical complexity: all the owners of images that take part are exactly that: owners of wartime images they keep, or not, said images and who are open to provide a testimony on how they have used these photographs, how did they come across them, what has taken place around these pictures, or why did they disappear, etc. The AIAN is an archive of all that takes place after the shutter opens and closes, told by the owners of the images. It reflects the quantity of behaviours that an individual develops around these pieces of paper which seem to reflect reality: the dedication, the framing, sending it by mail, destroying the images, or, why not, the very absence of the image.
AIAN develops my stepping aside from the already known narrative, and slipping through the interstices of history, in that which apparently lacks any real importance and which, nevertheless, reveals a lot about what happened. There are many interview projects, about subjects such as the Civil War or World War II or the Holocaust. There are websites where one can access interviews with survivors who talk about their experiences. But these spaces tend to be places of what is already known, where what is already known is repeated over and over again. There is nothing there to surprise us. We come to realise, over and over again, the perversity we already know, there is nothing previously untold in these testimonials that recite history. They eliminate the historical complexity of the discourse, a complexity which might be recovered if we change the motivation of the enquiry, if we set out to search for the small photographic story between the lines of which we can see the tragedy or the living conditions and the actual state of memory or amnesia of a witness who is not dehumanised in front of the camera.
All this could have easily taken the form of a documentary or a film narration, but, nevertheless, the archive, or the archive-like organisation of the interviews, allows us â as if it were an album of sorts â to see each entry in the register, each face, each testimonial one by one, individually. It also allows us to work carefully on each individual interview, on its editing, its treatment as an individual case study, as if it didn't need the rest of the archive to produce meaning, but it is nevertheless enriched by it. Also, the unfinished aspect of any archive is also present in this decision. There are always more cases to add, and when one generation is absent, there will be another one which will inherit the pictures one way or another, will manipulate them, frame them, and give them new meanings according to the idea of photography as a complex photographic practise, which grows over anything done with the picture or around it.